Thursday, June 09, 2005

on sheep

marjorie says...

I’ve recently begun reading a novel called Independent People, which was written in 1946 by Halldor Laxness of Iceland. This book has pulled me right in, from the very beginning -- I know y’all can relate to what a great feeling that is. It’s set in the early part of the twentieth century in Iceland -- it’s largely about peasantry, their culture as well as their daily realities -- sheep for instance. So, for my initial post on M-Pyrical I thought I would share a passage from the book about sheep…

“Well,” said Thorir of Gilteig, “if you were to ask me my opinion I should say that there’s nothing to fear as long as you manage to keep them clear of diarrhea in the wintertime. Even if the maggots are coming out of their nostrils I don’t see why you should worry as long as their bellies are clean. And as long as their bellies are clean, surely anyone would expect them to stand the early spring grass. However, I may be wrong in this as in so many other things.”

“No,” said the bridegroom, “you’re quite right. Ragnar of Urtharsel, who they say is lying on his death-bed, was of the same opinion, and he was a genius with diarrhea, I can tell you. But where it was lambs that were affected he was a great believer in chewing-tobacco. I remember he told me when I stayed with him a year or two ago that there were some winters when he gave his lambs as much as four ounces of the best; and he said he would sooner stint his family of their coffee, not to mention sugar, than see his lambs go short of their chaw.”

“Well, no one ever praised me for my husbandry,” observed Elinar of Undirhlith, the psalmist and commemorative poet of the district, “and I can’t say I mind at all, because I’ve noticed that those who worry most about making both ends meet prosper least in this world; fortune somehow seems to make them her special sport. But if I was to give you my opinion, according to my own understanding, I should say that if the fodder does little to keep the lambs free of maggots, chaw will do even less. Chaw might well be of some help when things are desperate, but when all is said and done, chaw is chaw and fodder fodder.”

“True enough, every word of it,” cried Olafur of Yztadale, swift of speech and rather shrill of voice. “Fodder is always fodder. But there’s fodder and fodder, as I thought anybody could see for himself, considering the number of times the zoologists have said so in the papers. And one thing is quite certain: it’s in some of the fodder that the damned bacteria that produce the maggots are hidden. Bacteria are always bacteria surely, and no maggot was ever produced without bacteria. I thought everybody could see that for himself. And where are the bacteria originally, may I ask, if they aren’t in the fodder?”

“I don’t know, I don’t argue about anything these days,” replied Thorir of Gilteig. “We try to see that the animals have decent fodder; and we try to see that the children have a good Christian upbringing. It’s impossible to say where the worm begins - either in the animal kingdom or in human society.”


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